Summer Outings

It’s been about two months since my last outs and abouts post, and in this span of time I managed to go on a few more weekend adventures. No big or extended vacations, but enough fun to add some spice to my otherwise boring life. Pictures and summaries after the break.

Chimney Rock State Park
What a view.

Asheville and NC Mountains

I went to western North Carolina to visit the mountains one weekend. I’ve been to the mountains twice before, but there are still many cool places along the Blue Ridge Mountains that I’ve not visited. On this particular weekend trip my targets were Asheville and the area to its southeast. My first stop was at Chimney Rock State Park, which is a popular tourist attraction near Lake Lure, a bit southeast to Asheville. While it is a NC State Park, Chimney Rock actually charges an admission fee, and have a lot more commercial amenities than your average NC state park. The star attraction of the park is of course the Chimney Rock, which is one of the most recognizable sights of the mountain regions of North Carolina.

Chimney Rock State Park stairs
Gonna be climbing a lot of stairs.

On the day I went, the elevator that took visitors to the top didn’t work, so everybody had to take the stairs. It was quite the climb, and I think in total it must have been similar to climbing up and down a 20-story building. My legs were sore for a few days after that climb, but the views were well worth the effort. That view of Chimney Rock with Lake Lure in the distance is just majestic. There is also a pretty nice waterfall called Hickory Nuts Falls that’s on the backside of the mountain.

Chimney Rock State Park Hickory Nut Falls
Nice waterfall at the back of the park.

Speaking of waterfalls, my next destination was DuPont State Forest, which is known for having several beautiful waterfalls. I hiked to Hooker Falls, Triple Falls and High Falls, which were the three easiest waterfalls to reach. Each waterfall is pretty in its own way, and two of the waterfalls (Hooker and High Falls) seem to be popular swimming holes.

Dupont State Forest Hooker Falls
Hooker Falls is a popular swimming hole.
Dupont State Forest Triple Falls
The upper two falls of Triple Falls.
Dupont State Forest High Falls
High Falls, the third and final waterfall I visited.

After a day of hiking, I drove into downtown Asheville for dinner and to walk around downtown a bit. Asheville is a small city, but it has a lively downtown with street performers and a good number of eateries and eclectic shops. Being a small city in the middle of the mountains certainly has its charms.

Biltmore House
The Biltmore House, all 180,000 square foot of it.
Biltmore House dining room
The Biltmore House is decked out in luxury

My final destination for this trip was Biltmore Estates. Built by the Vanderbilt family, Biltmore is the largest privately owned mansion in the United States, and it is one of the most well-known attraction in the state. I had planned to visit the estate last autumn but didn’t have time. That probably turned out to be a good thing since the weather wasn’t that great last fall, but the weather was perfect for my visit this time. Along with the magnificent Biltmore House, the estate include multiple gardens, two hotels, a winery and more. I managed to cover the house, the gardens, and the winery on my half-day visit. The opulence of the Biltmore House is incredible, the gardens were well-maintained and wonderful to stroll through, and you can even get some booze by undertaking the wine-tasting at the winery (included with admission). I initially thought the ticket price is a bit expensive, but if you have not been to Biltmore before, it is worth going there once.

Biltmore Gardens
The beautiful gardens at Biltmore Estate
Biltmore winery
Some wine tasting at Biltmore Winery. I think I tried about 10 different wines.

Kinston NC

I took a weekend day trip with a bunch of foodie friends to Kinston. Located about 90 minutes drive southeast of Raleigh, Kinston is not a particular well-known city, but it is the home of a famous restaurant called Chef & Farmer. Chef & Farmer is probably one of the most well-known restaurants in the state, because it is the subject of a PBS documentary series called A Chef’s Life. Dining at the restaurant is the main reason of our visit, and the food did not disappoint. Dining at Chef & Farmer wasn’t our only activity though, as we also visited the Boiler Room Oyster Bar for late lunch and Mother Earth Brewing for some booze. Along with beer, Mother Earth also offered distilled spirits including whiskey, rum and gin, and it was a nice surprise that we were able to taste the spirits during the brewery tour.

Mother Earth Brewing
Beer tasting flight at Mother Earth Brewing.
Chef & the Farmer dinner
Dinner at Chef & the Farmer. Appetizer was crab toast (lower left), which was good but the bread wasn’t what I was expecting. Entree was game hen which was excellent. And tasty chocolate chess pie with ice cream for desert.

Richmond, Virginia and Kings Dominion

Virginia State Capitol
The Virginia State Capitol.
Maymont garden
Maymont Park had some nice gardens.
Maymont Mansion
The Maymont Mansion. Got there too late to tour the insides.

Another weekend trip that I took during the last two months was to Richmond. Located along the fall line of the James River, Richmond is the capital of the Commonwealth of Virginia. It is a city with plenty of history, especially for the Civil War when Richmond served as the capital for the Confederates. In the city, we first visited the State Capitol which was designed by Thomas Jefferson. We also went to Maymont, which is a Victorian estate turned public park. Finally we took a drive up and down Monument Avenue, which has a number of monuments in the middle of the road, and beautiful historic homes along its sides.

Monument Ave houses
Beautiful and well-maintained historic homes along Monument Ave.
Monument Ave
One of the many monuments along Monument Ave.

The real reason why I decided to go to Richmond though was that I wanted to go to Kings Dominion. Kings Dominion is an amusement park located just north of Richmond, and I wanted to go because I had a Groupon discount ticket that I had to use before its expiry date. Like its sister park Carowinds in North Carolina (which I visited last summer), the primary attraction of Kings Dominion is its thrill rides, particularly the roller coasters. Kings Dominion has a different variety than Carowinds, and I rode most of them and had a blast. There is also a water park, and I did go to the water park to cool off a bit. Overall, I had fun at the park. I think Carowinds has a larger selection of roller coasters, but Kings Dominion is pretty good too.

Kings Dominion
View of Kings Dominion from the top of Eiffel Tower within the park. The big roller coaster in the middle is the Intimidator 305, and it was an absolute blast to ride.

Learning How to Shoot a Handgun

Basic Pistol 101
Practicing shooting from a seated position during the basic pistols course

During the last two months, I realized something: I’ve lived in the US for almost 6 years now, but I have never handled or shot a firearm before. That just doesn’t seem right given how pro-gun the States are. I took the steps to remedy this by taking a Basic Pistols course at a local shooting range. It was an informative course, and we got to shoot some rounds with .22 LR pistols. The next week I went to another gun range and rented some 9 mm pistols for some practice. The 9 mm pistols definitely have more kick than the .22s. Judging by the results, my aim could definitely use some work. I think when I pull the trigger I pull the muzzle left and down as a result :lol: . I don’t think I’ll be buying a firearm in the near future, but it’s certainly good to know how to use a handgun and going to the range once a while can be fun. I also want to take some courses on using rifles and shotguns.

Glock 17
Trying out a Glock 17 on my range day
Range target
Looks like my aim is a little off hahahaha.

New Bern

Tryon Palace
Tryon Palace, the old governor’s mansion and state capitol of NC.

Another weekend day trip I took was to New Bern. Located 2 hours southeast of Raleigh and at the confluence of the Trent and Neuse Rivers, New Bern is old capital of North Carolina, and it is also the birthplace of Pepsi Cola. The old colonial governor’s palace, called the Tryon Palace, has been restored and is open to the public. It’s not a particularly big or impressive building, but there is some interesting NC history that one can learn from taking the tour. The gardens of the Tryon Palace are nice too.

New Bern
New Bern downtown is small but charming.
New Bern bears
Apparently New Bern likes its bears. These are just some of the bear statues that I saw.

Outside of Tryon Palace, New Bern has a small but charming historic downtown area with some shops and restaurants. At the corner of Pollock St. and Middle St. is the Birthplace of Pepsi Cola. Invented in 1893 by pharmacist Caleb Bradham and given the Pepsi name in 1898, Pepsi Cola went through a number of ownership changes to become the global giant that it is today. Today, the Birthplace of Pepsi Cola is a souvenir store where one can buy T-shirts and of course enjoy some ice-cold Pepsi and other PepsiCo manufactured soft drinks.

Birthplace of Pepsi Cola
Having a 1893 Original Cola at the Birthplace of Pepsi Cola

The day trip to New Bern turned out to be pretty enjoyable. It’s a very small city so I managed to visit everything I wanted to see

Carolina Beach

Carolina Beach
Good day to be at the beach.

Summer isn’t complete without a trip (or trips) to the beach, and NC has some pretty good beaches. A group of us went to the beach and had a pretty good time. We ended up going to Carolina Beach which was 20-30 minutes south or Wilmington. The beach was busy, but we managed to find parking and staked out our spot on the sand. It was a hot day with blistering sun, but the water temperature was perfect and so we spent a lot of time in the ocean jumping up and down with the waves. I did get some sunburn from the beach trip, but it was a really fun day. There will probably be more beach trips before the summer is said and done.

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That’s all for this iteration of my outs and abouts. There probably will be another one of these in another month or two. Thanks for reading :smile: .

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